Evoking Civic Consciousness
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for an hour nationwide cleanliness drive on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti is a welcome move and should evoke a positive response cutting across party lines. Cleaning the often neglected public places like market spaces, railway tracks, open drains, water bodies, tourist spots, etc. will no doubt be a befitting tribute to the Father of the Nation who visualised cleanliness as a clean mind, a clean body, and clean surroundings. But it’s much more than a tribute. Capitalising on an occasion for any good cause should be welcomed. The crux of the matter is India seriously needs to work on cleanliness, starting from homes. In fact, the country needs to conduct 365 cleanliness drives a year, going by the litter you see in residential areas, on the streets, public spaces, rivers, and almost everywhere. Such initiative will help curb various water-borne and vector-borne diseases like dengue, Japanese encephalitis, diarrhoea, cholera, hepatitis, etc. that kill thousands of people every year. Unfortunately, the proposed date for the upcoming mega cleanliness drive falls on a Sunday, a day of worship for Christians, which is why it has evoked sharp objection from several church organisations and other civil bodies from Nagaland. This reaction is understandable, as unlike most Indian states, business establishments remain closed and farmers don’t go to their farms on Sundays in Nagaland and Christian-dominated areas. It’s a day of worship. At least that has been the tradition all these years. It is also understandable when the cleanliness drive was scheduled ahead of Gandhi Jayanti. The choice of date for the social work is most likely to be a case of coincidence, and it won’t be an issue next year if the programme continues as the day (October 1, 2024) falls on a Tuesday. In the meantime, it is important to respect the sentiments of the people, especially in a secular and pluralistic society. In the face of this impasse, the state government has killed two birds with one stone by deciding to conduct the programme on September 30, a day ahead of the rest of the country. This will not only instil public faith in the government but also draw better community response.
While initiatives like cleanliness drive can help build community spirit, create awareness about sanitation and keep garbage issue alive, besides clearing litter, it is certainly not a panacea for the waste issue. In the absence of civic sense and proper waste collection system, litter will keep reappearing. To avoid the vicious circle of transferring waste from one place to another and causing environmental pollution, citizens should imbibe waste segregating practice both at home and during cleanliness drives. Cleanliness and proper waste segregation should become a way of life. The concerned authorities and municipal bodies should also ensure effective door-to-door waste collection system. In the same measure, litterers should be penalised. It will be wrong to assume that cleanliness drives will solve the waste issue, an awakening of civic consciousness is the need of the hour.